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the port. -- court. we have a legal services corporation that is so under- funded, one out of every two phone calls go unanswered. we have not only the traditional minority poor, we have the newly poor. the foreclosure crisis has caused a vast new number of people to cannot support to go into court. even if they could afford it, if the courts are closed, there is no access. there is no access. around the country, the courts are closing down. the head of the civil division in los angeles told me that had the original budget gone through, they would of had to close 150 courtrooms. close them. who cares? is this really important? aren't these just a bunch of troublemakers going to court,
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clogging up the court system? does it make any difference to the business community or to average americans who don't need the court system? well, we are all going to be a minority some day in some way. we are all going to need the court system. the fact is this is as important to the business community as any other community. that is something that has not been written about and that we learned during the course of these commission hearings, that we had colorado's of fortune 50 companies and general counsel -- ceo's of fortune 50 companies and general counsel telling us there are billions of dollars tied up in the court system between powerful corporations that cannot get their day in court because the courts are not there. they are closed down. they cannot put it on their balance sheet. they can put it on their balance sheet, they could have new jobs. they create new technologies. but, they don't know whose money
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it is. in los angeles, they said, most recently, they have lost $16 billion in economic value because the courts have been closed. $1.6 million in tax. we have been the envy of the world as to our justice system. as the world becomes smaller and as multinational corporations decide where they will invest their money, they have historically invested it in the united states because we have had a court system that has been the envy of the world, but they won't continue to do that if they cannot get justice in america. there is an economic reason as well as a moral reason to make sure that our courts are open. we have a crisis in our federal system. 92 vacancies exist today in the federal court system. 15% of our federal court is
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vacant. we have 26 districts under federal emergencies, judicial emergencies. we have 18 judges come out with no opposition on either side, and it wasn't a political issue. could not get one of them through congress. you know, when i talk to the graduating students, i just went through that season and had a chance to talk to many, many graduating law students, and i talked about those four words come and i said, you have read millions of board to get to today. you only have to think about four words. they are inscribed over the supreme court of the united states. "equal justice under law." it doesn't say "equal justice for the rich and powerful and privileged." equal justice. "under lock" the meet -- needs
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the rule of law under the constitution. -- "under law" means the rule of law under the constitution. when i was leaving cuba, we were taken off the plane and held incommunicado in a private room. there were just locked rooms. you didn't know if you would ever see your family again. it only takes one night of that to change your life forever. in many ways, i believe that was the moment i decided to be a lawyer. i never wanted to feel so helpless again in my life. i also knew what was happening there was wrong and that somebody should care about it. if i ever had an opportunity to make a difference, i would do that. i believe that that moment is one that emphasized to me the importance of the rule of law and why we have to preserve our
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system of justice. most importantly, i remember that night because of a conversation i had with my grandfather. we have learned that the business he learned his whole life to establish was being taken over. what happens is they come to your house, they arrest you as an enemy of the state, and they take over your business. we left with the clothes on our backs. i said to my grandfather, how do you feel? he said, you know, i obviously feel terrible, but i feel good about one thing. how could you feel good about anything on a light -- night like tonight? he said, i feel good i'm going to the united states. i know i will never be arrested here again because if the united states falls, there will be no place to go. so when i think of your words, i found my voice and my place, to
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me, this is a promise made many years ago to my grandfather that he had nothing to worry about, and that is why this is a message that we must continue to talk about, and we must engage the american people to make sure that they want us as a profession and a society to get in the way of people who do not want to respect the rights of others. thank you very much. [applause] >> steve wants to stand up there, as i understand it. my job is to read a selection i have made of questions, which were very good, and covered a wide range. those of you who may not hear your question as one i have selected, just have in mind that we had a very good
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questions, just too many. now, should i make this announcement? this is for the radio audience. they're listening to the commonwealth club of california. our speaker today as steve zack, president of the american bar association, who is talking about threats to the american justice system caused by under- funding of our courts, and i might say as well, under- appreciation of our courts. with that in mind, i have made a selection of the questions. let me start with this, if i may. what can regular citizens, ordinary citizens, do to strengthen and uphold the u.s. justice system? >> i think maybe that is the
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seminal question as to why we are gathered here today and why we are talking about this issue. lawyers alone will never accomplish that. judges have the worst. they're not supposed to be out there asking for money for other court systems. the average citizen has to demand the attention of the courts. sandra day o'connor has one of the best statement. in every society, there have to be a safe place. in a democracy, that is a place that is the courts. we have to have the average citizen talking about how they want to preserve that save space in our society and talk to their legislatures, because there is a view among legislators, not all of them, but many, that the courts are another agency. it is not another agency.
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it is a co-equal branch of government but is necessary to protect our fundamental liberty, and to be such a branch, it needs adequate funding. when they say we have an economic crisis, we do have an economic crisis. there is no question about that. don't put the courts as another library for another road. it is not. it is the basis why we today enjoy our freedom. we have got to make that clearly understood. every time you talked legislator, every time you have an opportunity to talk to a civic group, you need to make that distinction. >> thank you. the next question from the audience, if you could choose only one reform of the american justice system, what would it be and why? >> it would be to de-politicize the funding of the justice
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system. what you have is the fact that the courts get in the way. they get in the way of the legislature or the executive branch doing what it want to do. it becomes very much a political issue as to be adequate funding of the courts. there should not be that tension that exists for the courts doing the right thing. there should be an opportunity in some states, and we will look at this next year in our commission resolution, one state as a citizens' committee that looks at the necessary funding for the state judiciary. then, there is a determined number based on empirical evidence. then, unless the governor and the legislature a firm affiliated affirmatively veto that, it becomes the number for
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the justice system in the state. i would like to see a way of disconnecting the two so that the justice system is absolutely funding and we provide access for citizens. >> the next question is rather different. how has the war on terror affected the american justice system in the past or up until now? what do you foresee in the future? >> the aba has spoken out about that issue on a number of occasions. it is important to preserve the bill of rights. i think that benjamin franklin -- he said those who will sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither. the fact is that this is a real
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problem. i see it being a much greater problem. the think tanks that have looked at the issue, unfortunately, have said that in the next 10 years, there will be not one, but two dirty nuclear bombs exploded in the united states. i hope they're wrong. that is what the statistics show. if that does happen, god forbid, i believe that our fundamental democracy will be under the greatest attack it has ever experienced. as a matter of fact, one of the issues we're looking at in the aba is what would be the aba's response in the event there was a dirty nuclear bomb and habeas corpus was suspended in the united states, as it was by lincoln and by roosevelt? a lot of people don't remember that and don't know it. england, i was in england talking to their lawyers.
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i was talking to their security people. they don't have a constitution. they have much different ability to hold people for longer periods of time, and what they would do under similar circumstances. it is an issue we are thinking about and an issue the american bar association will have to respond to. >> a very different sector of the set of problems you have been wrestling with, are the problems faced by our justice system rooted in deep problems in legal education, especially aspiring -- spiral in student debt, forcing lawyers away from public interest -- especially spiraling stood in debt, forcing lawyers away from public interest? >> i have a son who graduated from university. i have a niece who graduated
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last year and another niece is considering going to law school. i have been looking at the economics of going to law school. they are out of kilter. the profession is not to be a profession just for the rich. we must have a profession that looks like our society in every respect. there are a number of things the aba is doing in that regard. we have a resolution that is coming up in three weeks in toronto at our annual meeting. it tells people going to law school exactly what they are in for and you need to understand that the accreditation part of the american bar association is under a completely separate organization as a result of an agreement we have with the department of justice and department of education, so that we don't have any antitrust
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issues. that is an independent group. we at the american bar association are asking law schools to prepare for -- prepare 10 simple questions about what it costs to go to law school, how many of their students are employed upon graduation in real jobs, not artificial jobs, and we think it is going to be helpful. we also have a website that has a lot of information for anyone considering to go to law school, but probably the most important statistic that these potential students don't know is that the median income of lawyers in the united states is $62,000. they need to understand that before they incur $100,000 in debt. is there always room for another good lawyer? we need good lawyers. there always is. you have to ask yourself how much that you can afford -- how much debt you can afford. they have been watching too much
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"boston legal." you see $100,000 starting salaries. that may be for the top 10 students at the top 10 law schools. there were 30,000 graduates this year. what are the others going to do? there are jobs available and good jobs available, but we have to first let them know what to expect upon graduation. second thing we have to do is make sure we continue to have the profession look like our society. two spots of the examples. hispanic lawyers, less than 4%. 15% of our society. african americans come 8% come away under-represented. what we are doing in that regard as we have minority scholarships and a program where we put minority students with federal judges and state judges. we have a diversity center,
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which are the only four missions of the aba, one of them is to promote diversity with in -- within and without the profession. i saw recently a good trend that among the ivy schools and other schools that they are giving free admission, no longer loans they're loaning, but they're giving free admission to minority students to help provide more access for minorities. we have a long way to go to make sure that we can provide affordable law students' education. one thing that i did recently was one of my nieces, why do you want to go to this school, which was not in her home town where she could live at home and go to the school and not have to incur all those expenses, you know, you will get as good an education there. you need to make different
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decisions. we have got to give them a transparent environment to make the decision in. >> still another quarter, which indicates the enormous range of the subject matter, arbitration. is it a legitimate part of the legal system, or is it just a private system of justice? >> both. it is both. it is a private system of justice. unfortunately, it is only available very often to people who have money. again, what we call the rent-a- judge system exists today. you have retired judges you can hire four between $500.1000 dollars an hour to adjudicate your case -- hire for between five under dollars and -- 5
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hundred dollars -- $500 and $1000 an hour to adjudicator case. there is foreclosure. the supreme court said we need mandatory mediation before trial to try and do away with the logjam we have. mediation is a very useful and efficient way of handling some cases. many cases. it is part of the future of the practice of law. they can be the only part of the practice of law that we use to resolve disputes. >> 30 minutes to go. we are in good shape. i have not been aware of how the time works here. i am learning quickly, i think. in a way, the arbitration system
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exists in opposition to another fundamental element of our legal system, which is the jury system. we are interested in your views about the role of the jury system, both in civil and in criminal cases. >> well, i strongly believe in the jury system. i am a jury traveler. that is all i have done for 45 years. my personal experiences that i have seen the collective wisdom of a jury actually be one of the most beautiful things you can witness in achieving justice. sometimes, the jury, still following the law, can see through a lot of legal arguments and do what is right, legally right, and that is a beautiful part of the jury system.
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i have been involved with a magnet part of a celebration, which is going to go into its 800-year anniversary in 2015 that is the genesis of the jury system. surprisingly, england has virtually no jury system left as part of its justice system. we're the last bastion of the jury system. however, japan just recently decided to inaugurate the jury system. we're working with the japanese, who culturally, historically, are not comfortable with the jury system, because they don't usually have discussions about a different point of view. we actually show the movie "truck -- 12 angry men" to demonstrate how one person can make a huge difference.
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we show them "to kill a mockingbird." there are lots of things that we do that we try to get them interested in the jury system. it is growing, that interest. i am worried about the jury system after some of these recent cases. without opining on those cases, to tell you the truth, i don't want those cases because they will frustrate me. i see things happen there that just should not happen, either lawyers acting certain ways, the judges act in certain ways. i really don't follow it. plus, i don't know what is being kept out from the jury, withheld by judges and so forth. what i do see is jurors being attacked. you see what has happened to some of the jurors in recent cases. we cannot have that occur. what will happen when you go to court and you need a jury trial,
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and you need jurors, how many people are going to be jurors or wish to be jurors when they think that they're going to be followed around by the press or people trying to get their phone number and harassment? we have to protect jurors. i have tried a number of cases that have been very high- publicity cases, and they have still been televised, but you haven't seen the jury's face. i believe in the public telecasting, it is very good to demystify the law in as many ways as possible. it is not some fraternity that operates independently. in florida, the supreme court argument, for example, they are televised on all of them. i wish the united states supreme court would televise its proceedings. i think it would be very helpful to americans to understand the justice system. i am in favor of the public
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seeing what goes on in courtrooms. i think we need to do more to protect jurors so that they can do their jobs and not worry about what happens after the trial. >> if there were some other country that we were advising about their justice system, what would you recommend that they adopt from mars -- ours that they don't have? one might be the jury system. what would you say to them about aspects of our system that they ought to be very skeptical about? >> well, i actually have had that conversation. during this year, i spent most of my time in the united states. i have visited 20 different countries, 30 cities, and spoken to the chief justice of the countries i have visited.
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that includes the chief justice of the supreme court of russia, where we had a long conversation one-on-one talking about issues like this. i tell you what happens in other countries and what they are doing. in russia, for example, you have 200,000 jurors. you don't even have to go to high school. you have no attorney-client privilege. you go to court. they only have 35,000 average cats. -- advocates. they handle the most difficult cases. we were talking about how to professionalize, if you will, the legal profession. the aba was formed 133 years ago only for two purposes.
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one, to create a code of ethics for all lawyers. the second one is to increase the quality of legal education. that is still our fundamental mission. so, one suggestion i made at that time to the chief justice is you have got to give lawyers a monopoly. the only way -- this sounds self-serving, and it is not -- the only way to professionalize it is to have a group of people that have a monopoly so that you can control that group of people, so that they are subject to an ethical code, and so that you can control their licenses and removal of their licenses if they act unprofessionally. of course, monopolies are not something that historic way russia would consider to be an option. they have the issues they're considering over there. china, which i just returned from, they have just announced
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that they have 200,000 lawyers in china today. the chinese government announced they will have 1 million lawyers in the next 10 years. you might ask yourself, what country wants more lawyers? let me tell you one thing about the chinese. they are very smart. an example of how the world has changed is more ipo's were done in shanghai last year than in london and new york combined. all right? it tells you where the world is shifting. why do they need more lawyers? they understand that they want to be the dominant economic and business powerhouse in the world. they look at the american model. they need lawyers to make those deals. i would advise them to have a quality legal education. that is opposed to brazil, where you have 1000 law schools, you can open a law school for a
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couple hundred bucks, and they have a huge failure rate. we are working with the brazilians, other colleges, law schools. i spoke to their major university about these issues, and they are doing what they can to increase. i would tell them to make sure that the legal education is a quality legal education. it is the first of to have a monopoly, so you can control the lawyers, and make sure they are acting in an ethical way. i think there was a third part of the question, what would i tell them not to do. by the way, before i get to that, in vietnam, i recently met with the president of their bar association, similar to the american bar. in most countries, they have a government bar association that is part of the government, in effect. then they just have an non-club
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federated are. the person was a 70-year-old viet cong that was the chair. one of the most interesting conversations i ever had. someone who did not told anyanger, -- not hold any anger, but wanted information and help from america. the american bar association has one of the best legal libraries in the world. coaching and has said -- has built a law school that has no books. we're working with those countries to provide them with legal materials because they have been asking. they also ask for lawyers to help them with their loss students -- loss students -- law students. we have reached out to see if we we have reached out to see if we can do some exchange program.

March 2, 2013 7:00am-7:30am PST

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